Over the weekend I finally got my hands on the giant new Apple iPhone 6 Plus. As promised, I plan to make the iPhone 6 Plus my everyday phone, and see for myself if it can effectively take the place of my phone and my tablet.
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Fully determining how well that experiment works, however, will take some time. Only weeks and months of actual use will reveal whether the Apple’s phablet (though the company is loathe to call it that) is big and powerful enough to comfortably replace a full-sized iPad Air. On the other hand, I’m pretty confident that the iPhone 6 Plus is plenty capable of doing all the things my iPhone 5 did, as long as I can manage to fit it into my pocket and bring it along with me most everywhere I go.
Bad press on the size issue
The initial indications were not entirely promising on that account. Many reviews complained that the phone didn’t fit in their pants pockets, and many longtime iPhone users unfamiliar with phablets freaked out when they first saw the size of the new devices. The Huffington Post even worried that the new iPhones would bring back cargo pants, a sartorially disastrous example of unintended consequences.
I don’t wear cargo pants, but I won’t have to, and neither will anyone else. The iPhone 6 Plus simply isn’t that big. Sure, it seems enormous compared to earlier iPhones, but not next to other modern smartphones.
The iPhone 6 Plus easily fits in the front pocket of my admittedly not-that-tight Levi’s. It’s not that much wider than an iPhone 5, and the added height doesn’t seem like much of an issue. Plus, the new device is actually a bit thinner, and the rounded edges make it easier to slip into and out of your pocket.
So despite the brouhaha, the "too big to fit" meme doesn't hold up.
The sound of one hand swiping
The other complaint about the size of the iPhone 6 Plus concerns whether you can use it with one hand. Short answer: mostly you can.
I don’t have huge hands, but depending on how I hold it, I am able to reach the vast majority of the screen with my thumb. (Resting in your hand gives you more reach than trying to crush it in a deathgrip. That’s fine for around the house, but it could be a problem on a crowded subway.) Overall, it’s usually easy enough to maneuver the device to reach things I want to click in a far corner. Still, this could be a deal breaker for folks with smaller hands who like to one-hand their phone in busy environments. For these people, the regular, 4.7-inch iPhone 6 should work fine, but I am hearing complaints that Apple didn’t also release an iPhone 6 with the same dimensions as the iPhone 5.
You may notice the above argument doesn’t invoke Apple’s software response to the short-thumb-meets-big-screen problem. The ability to double-tap the home button to slide the display down on the screen turns out to be pretty ridiculous. I was hoping for something that would cleverly give my thumb access to the whole screen, but no, the function just moves the whole thing halfway down the screen, so you can see only the top half. It doesn’t help that much, and the implementation is ugly to the point of looking broken.
It’s still early, but I think it’s clear that the iPhone 6 Plus is not going to be too big to be a viable everyday phone for me, or for most people, once they get over the shock of how different it is from an iPhone 5. Millions of people around the world have been happily carrying and using a wide variety of phones the size of the iPhone 6 Plus (or even bigger) for years. The bigger question, as it were, is whether the iPhablet is large enough to do the work of a tablet. Stay tuned for more on that…